Do you remember last year when the Chiefs had $177 in cap space? Brett Veach parlayed that into turning Patrick Mahomes into a very rich man, extending Chris Jones to the tune of $60m and extending Travis Kelce. The salary cap is very open to manipulation to a talented GM. All those talents are going to be needed this year, it appears that the salary cap is going to shrink due to Covid down to $185,597,253.
As of the time of writing, the Chiefs are going to be $22,819,876 over the cap number according to overthecap.com . That’s before signing Free Agents and signing the draft picks. It sounds like a lot, but there are ways to reduce the hit this year. There are three main ways to reduce cap hit this year.
Cut a player – Players will have a certain amount of salary that they are committed to paying. If you cut a player before the end of the contract then you still have to account for any outstanding bonuses and that goes as dead money against this years salary cap. But, you can still save a significant chunk of change if you cut a player that has a high salary and low outstanding bonus.
Restructure the contract – If a player has a roster bonus due this season, that bonus can be restructured and considered spread over the remaining years of the contract. Most of these bonuses have a due date, so if the Chiefs are considering doing this, keep an eye out around March 20th which is when Jones, Mahomes and Kelce will need to be restructured by.
The plus side of this is that you can save a significant amount of cap space this season, the down side is that you still have to account for the bonus at some stage. It also makes it harder to cut players because any outstanding bonus must be accounted for and if you’ve restructured then there is more potential dead money accumulated in later years of the contract.
Offer an extension – You can reduce this years cap hit by extending a players contract and putting in bonuses that get spread over the length of the contract while reducing the base salary in the current year. Good if you have a player you want to keep longer term who is on a high salary this year.
Let’s take a look at a few options open to the Chiefs. (All numbers taken from overthecap.com)
Cut Eric Fisher
The NFL is a business. Tough decisions have to be made. Fisher tore his achilles and that is a long term injury, unlikely to be healthy for the start of the season, maybe not until late in the season. He’s the wrong side of 30 and the Chiefs drafted a potential replacement in Niang last year. Cutting Fisher means the Chiefs don’t have to pay his base salary of $11m but still have to account for his bonuses of just over $3m.
Potential Cap Savings – $11,968,750
Cut Mitch Schwartz
Back injuries are nasty, they can linger. Big heavy fellas that rely on agility can really be hampered by a back injury. Schwartz missed half the season this year, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this injury keeps coming back. It could be time to move on. I doubt the Chiefs cut both Fisher and Schwartz, I can easily see they cut one of the two.
Potential Cap Savings – $6.098,750
Restructure Patrick Mahomes
Still half a billion well spent, but also a very well constructed contract. Mahomes is due a roster bonus each year, it’s possible to restructure his contract and spread this bonus over 5 years. This year’s roster bonus of $21,716,905 could be spread making it a very manageable $4m each year for the next 5 years.
Potential Cap Savings – $17,373,524
Restructure Travis Kelce
Like Mahomes, Kelce is on a long term contract and has a roster bonus that could be spread out for minimal hits each year. The $7,000,000 roster bonus due this year could become a very manageable $1.5m extra a year.
Potential Cap Savings – $6,200,000
Restructure Chris Jones
Chris Jones is due a $20,000,000 roster bonus. He’s on a relatively short contract with only 2 years on it after this one so there is less benefit each season because there is still a large amount of bonus to be accounted for each year. But 2/3 of $20m is a lot of money to take off this year’s cap hit and is tempting to do. The downside to this is that his cap hits for the next 2 seasons become, er, large. But he is a top player at a highly paid position, so if you were paying anyone big money then he’s a good candidate.
Potential Cap Savings – $13,333,333
Extend Tyrann Mathieu
Still only 29 years old, leader and tone setter on the defence, the Honey Badger is a prime candidate for a contract extension. He carries a $19.7m cap hit this year, mainly due to the $14.5m base salary. An extended contract could reduce this amount to a more manageable figure and inflating the numbers in the later years of the new contract. He’s probably going to be looking at a $15m plus per year contract but that cap hit could be larger as some salary is moved out of this year.
Potential Cap Savings – approx $10,000,000
So, the Chiefs have options for creating cap space this season. Some of those options have greater implications in future years than others. It will be interesting to see which options Brett Veach takes